Rent control referendum fails in close vote; housing group petitions 2012 results to NJ Supreme Court

HOBOKEN – Rent control laws in Hoboken will remain unchanged, now that the Hudson County Clerk’s official vote count determined that a public question altering laws in favor of property owners failed by 122 votes. The county clerk confirmed on Friday just before press time that they had begun counting provisional votes – the final round of votes necessary to determine the results of the election.
On Monday morning, the final count was 5,144 “no” votes to 5,022 “yes” votes.
The question asked voters whether they wanted to change the city’s codes to allow landlords to decontrol rents permanently in apartment buildings with four units or less and just once in buildings with five or more units. The decontrol would happen once a current tenant moved out.
Representatives from the property owners’ group who supported the referendum, the Mile Square Taxpayers Association (MSTA) said in a Reporter story this past weekend, that they may challenge the result in court, as they did last year. See this story.
“With the vote this close, anyone in my position would be unable to accept the results,” said the representative, Ron Simoncini.
Interestingly, it isn’t simply the losers who are currently threatening to take legal action over recent rent control votes. Members of the Hoboken Fair Housing Association (HFHA), who have fought to protect the current rent control laws, confirmed on Monday that they had filed an appeal of a court’s ruling to overturn the 2012 results of the same public question with the New Jersey Supreme Court.
The “no” votes had won that election as well, by 52 votes, but a panel of appellate judges ordered it back on the ballot this summer after landlords argued that voters had been disenfranchised by Hurricane Sandy.
Cheryl Fallick, a representative for HFHA, said that her group was not asking the court to nullify last week’s election in favor of the 2012 result, but said that there were several aspects of the court proceedings related to that election that deserve legal clarification.
For instance, Fallick, as a representative of the “winning” side in 2012, was not immediately allowed to intervene in the proceedings when MSTA appealed the results. However, in an election issue involving candidates, the winning candidate is usually allowed to intervene if his or her opponent challenges a result. No case law exists for public questions, Fallick said. – Dean DeChiaro

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